Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 232, Issue 3, pp 1057–1070 | Cite as

Time flies when you are in a groove: using entrainment to mechanical resonance to teach a desired movement distorts the perception of the movement’s timing

  • Daniel K. ZondervanEmail author
  • Jaime E. Duarte
  • Justin B. Rowe
  • David J. Reinkensmeyer
Research Article


The human motor system quickly entrains rhythmic limb movement to the resonant frequency of mechanical systems with which it interacts, suggesting that entrainment to an appropriately designed training device might be a convenient way to teach desired movements. We tested this possibility by asking healthy subjects (N = 30) to learn to move with a desired movement timing using a simple resonating arm training device: a lever attached to a manual wheelchair. The subjects tried to learn to roll the lever-driven wheelchair back and forth in place at a target frequency initially presented using a series of auditory beeps. One-third of the subjects trained without resonance and with no further feedback about rolling frequency; their performance did not improve. Another group trained with continual visual feedback of frequency error but no resonance; they quickly learned to roll the chair at the target frequency, as evidenced at both short-term and long-term (1 day later) retention tests. A third group trained with elastic bands attached to the lever that caused the system to resonate at the target frequency, providing a timing template. While these participants quickly entrained to the target frequency during training, they did not accurately reproduce this frequency when the system was no longer resonant, moving too slowly with the same systematic error at both the short-term and long-term retention tests. They also did not exhibit a timing aftereffect on the initial movements made when they transitioned from a resonant to non-resonant system or vice versa. This suggests they did not realize they were performing the task with a temporal error. Entrainment to mechanical resonance conveys usable information about movement timing, but seems to cause that movement timing to be perceived as slower than it actually is, as if a putative internal clock speeds up, which is a factor to consider in designing machine-assisted motor training.


Resonance Motor learning Timing Continuous Discrete Time perception 



This research was supported by Machines Assisting Recovery from Stroke and Spinal Cord Injury for Reintegration into Society (MARS3), the National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Rehabilitation Robotics, H133E120010 and NIH-R01HD062744-01 from the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research, part of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel K. Zondervan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jaime E. Duarte
    • 1
  • Justin B. Rowe
    • 2
  • David J. Reinkensmeyer
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Mechanical and Aerospace EngineeringUniversity of California at IrvineIrvineUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biomedical EngineeringUniversity of California at IrvineIrvineUSA
  3. 3.Department of Anatomy and NeurobiologyUniversity of California at IrvineIrvineUSA

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